Sunday, August 26, 2012

Back to basics

Tomorrow, I will go back to my school building to begin setting up my classroom.  This is my 8th year teaching first grade and I have been feeling oddly serene about the start of a new school year.  I haven't bought anything for the classroom yet, no visits to Lakeshore or Bank Street to get cute things for the classroom, I haven't looked at anything online or tried to get fresh ideas.  I'm sort of in auto-pilot mode this year.  My colleagues, on the other hand, have been obsessively pinning things on their Pinterest pages for the entire summer with tons of ideas and inspirations for their classrooms.  Some of them have even made elaborate projects and charts and gotten them laminated in anticipation of the school year.  I can't help but ask myself, Why am I not interested?  Am I a bad teacher?  Am I burnt out?  I confided all my fears to a retired teacher I know and her response not only surprised me, but helped me remember and recover my own philosophy of teaching. 

She reminded me that students need to construct the environment in the classroom in order to have ownership of it.  She reminded me that classrooms should be calming and not overstimulating.  The students need to label the different areas after they have been introduced.  For example, they need to know how to use the math center and the library before it even comes out.  She reminded me that in Responsive Classroom (a marvelous program), parts of the classroom should be covered and concealed before they are introduced so that children get a chance to learn what they are and how to use them.  She reminded me of all the joy and learning that my students constructed in their study of toys last year and the donorschoose grant that brought in the materials that my students were INTERESTED in.  This is what mattered then and what matters now.

Tomorrow, I will go in once again and paper my bulletin boards with brown butcher paper and a simple border.  I will arrange the furniture, and put out the basics:  Old favorites (a collection of books the children loved from Kindergarten), the calendar and number grid, our plants, pens, crayons, and basic writing paper.  The library will be covered, the math center will be covered, the play centers will be covered.  A growing number line will be started with a 0 only.  The students names will be on the front door, and I think that's pretty much it.  I know as the year gets underway, amazing things will happen in the space and the classroom will belong to all of us. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Dropping Like Flies

Okay, so I haven't posted for 6 months, I know that's not great, but I'm still here, still teaching in NYC, getting ready for my 10th year in the classroom.  I know I've neglected my blog for awhile and I lost a lot of readers after I changed the web address and title out of fear of being exposed, but that's not the point of this post.  Over the years, I've connected with many fellow teacher bloggers and have taken comfort in the fact that we were all in this together.  We were all dealing with similar circumstances at our schools, similar career choices, etc.  Now I click on my links of "Other Teacher Blogs I Like" and I can't help but notice that it seems that most of my colleagues in the teacher blogger world have either left the profession, left the NYC system, gone back to school, or something else.  In fact, I used to have a lot more links there, but one by one I removed each one as my fellow bloggers logged out.  They are just simply not there anymore.  Believe me, I totally understand ALL the reasons for this, I fantasize about leaving every single year, but I can't help but feel saddened and alone.   

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The obligatory post about teacher data reports

What can I say?  I really have no words (not true, I have a few).  All I can say is: margin of error of 54 out of 100 points.  Unreliable, inaccurate, flawed, stupid, malicious... whatever.  Honestly, at this point, I just don't even care. Take me, fire me... do it.  If it ever comes to that I will know in my heart that I did everything I could do for the children of New York and I never took my job for granted.  If this is how I'm going to be evaluated, what can I do?  People say you have to fight it.  I'm tired of fighting.  I want to teach.

I'm a teacher.  I love teaching.  I love my school.  I love my class.  I work hard at my job.  I do whatever I can to encourage my students to love learning.  I love learning from them.  In 9 years of teaching, I'm having the best year yet (I wish I used this blog to elaborate on that).  It doesn't matter to the system.  I am disposable.  My school is disposable.  The children are commodities.

I have never been U rated.  Never had a letter in my file.  My data actually did not come out in the report since I don't teach a testing grade.  But it will eventually.  They have been tracking my students on ARIS for 4 years (or so... maybe longer) and I'm sure there will be a new "formula" to track lower grades teachers.  Maybe my first graders will be subjected to standardized testing so they can produce "data" on me.   It doesn't matter to the system.  

Go ahead, put 32 kids in my class.  Give me special ed students with IEPs that have been altered to NOT meet their needs and don't give them the services they are legally entitled to.   Don't give me any materials... nothing.... don't worry about it.  Don't worry about providing curriculum aligned to the common core standards, I will do it myself... no problem.  While your at it, take away my preps, my union, make me work longer hours and tether me to a blackberry well into the evening.  Don't consider any research in making your decisions and don't encourage me to either.  Don't provide me with any professional development.  Cut my school's budget so the kids won't have gym or music anymore... they never had art, so don't worry about that one at all.  Give my first graders a standardized test so you can track me.  Maybe your margin of error will work in my favor, maybe it wont.  It doesn't matter. You know what, just fire me (and you will break my heart).

This is the reality, folks.